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How to preserve network bandwidth with IIoT edge IPCs

Phoenix Contact
October 22, 2021
How to preserve network bandwidth with IIoT edge IPCs
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How to preserve network bandwidth with IIoT edge IPCs

The industrial internet of things (IIoT) and edge PCs are the

buzzwords in industrial automation. Discussions about IIoT,

however, often overlook the sheer amount of data that is potentially

being generated by all those devices. In addition, all this data

needs to be securely transmitted to and from the millions of devices

already deployed today.

It’s all about the data

In traditional automation systems, all the data is usually transmitted

to a centralized data processing location, such as a central server

or larger industrial computer (IPC). This requires a wired or wireless

network connection. For distributed IIoT systems in remote

areas, such as water pumping stations, oil fields, or similar assets,

this might be an issue.

Providing you pass this first hurdle, the second one may be available

bandwidth. If large amounts of data are being transmitted, it will

reduce available network bandwidth and cause associated data

delays or latency; or in the case of a network issue, it may prevent

communication altogether. Lastly all this data needs to be

protected from unauthorized access.

With compact IIoT-ready industrialized computers, you can

distribute the processing power to the edge of the internet, also

known as “the edge” for short. More importantly, you can reduce,

or possibly eliminate, the transmission of large amounts of data

via the cloud with the help of edge PCs that reside in remote


Save the data

With an intelligent edge device, such as an edge IPC, you will no

longer exclusively rely on a network connection to initiate crucial

action remotely. The edge IPC will process and control the data

locally, which also increases the speed of execution for critical

processes by eliminating network latency.

Obviously, having a network connection via the cloud to and

from these remote edge devices can be beneficial. It is no longer

mandatory to be ultra-high speed, as any mission-critical tasks can

be performed locally. This reduces the amount of data transmitted

over the cloud, so it can help reduce the data volume, keep it more

secure, and ultimately, lower the cost of data transmission itself. It

also frees up the available bandwidth for other critical processes.

Combine that with the potential for a lower-cost data plan, and

you can achieve significant cost savings over the life span of the

deployed asset

Energy-efficient, rugged and secure

Edge devices are often deployed in remote locations such as

water/wastewater plants, pump stations in oil and gas applications,

or in kiosks providing services to consumers. While the edge

device is not directly exposed to the elements, it needs to be

capable of handling the environmental conditions and provide

24/7 operation. Passively cooled, ruggedized “fanless” IPC

systems featuring solid-state drives also eliminate any rotating

parts, increasing uptime. Lastly a wide input voltage range and

energy-efficient operation help in applications where the power

is limited or comes from renewable energy sources.

Wired or wireless network connections can help to connect

these remote devices to a central server for heartbeat or other

diagnostics functions. While there is technically no need to

transmit large amounts of data to a central location, it helps to

monitor the remote assets for proper operation or predictive

maintenance. If a network connection is needed, it needs to be

secure. Features like integrated hardware encryption such as

Trusted Platform Module support (TPM 2.0) and secure boot

mechanisms should be part of an edge IPC’s capabilities to prevent

unauthorized data access. While these features do not replace

antivirus/anti-malware software and dedicated hardware firewalls,

they do provide an additional layer of security.

An example of such an edge IPC is the new, ultra-compact

embedded BL2 BPC 1500 box IPC series from Phoenix Contact.

It is the perfect fit for IIoT edge applications, small machine control,

or decentralized data collection/processing in remote assets.

The future is here

With IIoT in full swing, the deployment of edge IPCs has already

started. Companies need to meet stricter regulations for monitoring

and collecting data in the future, so the number of such devices

will grow even further as more edge applications are deployed.

Preserving bandwidth by using remote IIoT edge devices like the

BL2 BPC 1500 is crucial. Keeping the network connection secure is

existential. Now is the time to review your edge automation needs

and to future-proof them. This will ensure that your distributed

assets will operate reliably and securely for their intended service


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